Razorbacks Fall to No. 1 Florida in Season Finale
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Arkansas softball team closed out its 2016 campaign Sunday afternoon with an 8-0 road loss at top-ranked Florida. Junior starter Grace Moll finished the game with three strikeouts to bring her season total to a career-high 185 strikeouts, a mark good for ninth on the program’s single-season list.
After a shaky first inning in Sunday’s game, Moll settled in to hold the Gators to one run on one hit over the next three frames including a 1-2-3 third. She tallied her final strikeout to start the fifth before Florida put a rally together to end the game after RBI hits by Amanda Lorenz and Aleshia Ocasio.
Florida (52-4, 20-4 SEC) jumped out to an early lead, scoring four runs—one unearned—on two hits in the first inning. The first six Gator hitters got on base and took advantage of an Arkansas error to plate the first run. In addition to scoring on a wild pitch, the home team also picked up an RBI single by Kirsti Merritt and a sacrifice fly by Taylore Fuller.
Shelby Hiers led off the game by drawing a walk in the first inning but was left stranded as the Razorbacks’ lone base runner of the day. Florida starter Kelly Barnhill retired the next 15 Arkansas hitters to record the Gators’ fourth no-hitter of the year and push her record to 15-0 in the circle. Arkansas finishes the year with a 17-39 overall record and a 1-23 mark in SEC play under first-year head coach Courtney Deifel.
At year’s end, freshman Ashley Diaz led Arkansas this season with a .331 batting average, 12 home runs and 41 RBI. She is one of nine SEC players on the NFCA National Freshman of the Year Top-25 watch list. Overall, the Razorbacks finished the year with 49 home runs which is the sixth-highest total in program history. Eleven different Razorbacks went deep this season including nine by Hiers and eight by junior Nicole Schroeder.
They are also two of the eight Razorbacks to improve their batting average from a season ago including sophomore Tori Cooper who is second on the team with her .278 mark. Diaz led the Razorbacks with 53 hits this season while Hiers and sophomore Autumn Russell were tops in the lineup with 28 runs scored.
Along with her strikeout numbers, Moll led the pitching staff with 12 wins. Playing in her first full season shortstop, sophomore Madison Yannetti tallied 131 assists which is the eighth most in program history. Collectively, the Arkansas defense turned 25 double plays this season, the third most by a Razorback team and the most since the 2001 season.
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